5 Events that Changed the Sport of Skiing

Where the first people decided to strap wooden planks to their feet and fly down a mountain of snow is up for debate, but the most agreed upon location is in Scandinavia. The actual word ‘ski’ comes from the Old Norse word meaning stick of wood. History tells us these Northern Europeans started the sport somewhere in the mid 1800s, but the sport has changed drastically since then. Here are five landmark skiing events that changed the sport forever.

Invention of the Heel Strap
All the way back in 1850 a man by the name of Sondre Norheim used a piece of birch tree root as a heel strap on his wooden skis. This basic invention provided a snug fit for the heel that would push the toe forward and keep the foot stationary. This was the birth of downhill skiing because skiers were finally able to maintain control and steer down steep slopes. The heel strap also allowed skiers to go off jumps without losing their skis, which was another revolutionary advancement in the sport.

The Turn and Stop
In what is now called Oslo, Norway a group led by Nordheim gave a demonstration on how to use his ‘telemark’ skis. The classic knee dipped turn was performed for an audience to show exactly how to use this brand new equipment. The ‘skidded stop’ move was also first demonstrated at this time, and both techniques are still considered the norm today.

The Use of Poles
In 1896 a retired schoolteacher and avid skier from Austria was one of the first people to publish a book about skiing techniques. Among other strategies Mathias Zdarsky suggested the methodical use of one long pole. It was said to help with both braking and turning, which eventually led to the two-pole system used today.

The First Ski Factory
While skiing is credited as a European invention, many serious events of the sport occurred in North America. One of these events was the creation of the first public ski factory. In 1911, C.A. Lund founded a factory to produce skis that later became known as the ‘Northland Ski Company.’ It was located in St. Paul, Minnesota and ended up being the leader in the ski market for over 30 years in the USA.

First Olympic Winter Games
Composed of only Nordic ski events, the first winter Olympic games were held in Chamonix, France. While northern Europeans dominated a huge number of the events, it put the sport of skiing on a global stage. After the Olympics the sport literally caught an avalanche of popularity and spread to the far corners of the globe. Anywhere that the mountains had snow the sport was adopted and it developed into what it is today.

By Alex Vere Nicoll